I often talk and write about [church] community life. This is because [church] community has changed me. It has transformed the way I see people; it has altered how, when, where I see Christ; it has invited me into a whole new way of being me. This way is freeing and I crave for others to enter it.
But I realize not all people live in community. In fact, I would dare to say that most people do not. Because I am convinced that investing in [church] community is completely worth all of your heart, I write and talk all about it. I write with the hopes that you may be intrigued enough to walk through the doors of a church one Sunday morning with the intention of getting involved, of joining the mission, of living in community with others. I believe that [church] community is where we grow, where we flourish, and where we see Jesus. I recognize that many Christians fail to remember Truth & Grace and many churches are not as welcoming as they possibly could be...but this post is not about that. This post is about you and your heart and how I so badly crave for you to experience the freedom that investing in community can offer.
Community life is an adventure; community becomes family and you do things like gather to sing Christmas carols downtown outside of Starbucks.
Inviting someone into your life can be is scary. It means you are at risk for rejection, you are vulnerable for hurt, you might be exposed. You're much safer behind your own door. Alone. What I hope to share on this space is that it is worth those things: it is worth the uncertainty.
[How does one even begin to join community and live life with other people in an authentic way?]
There was a time [about 4 years ago] when I thirsted for community but also greatly feared it. What if the truth that I am deeply flawed and broken is revealed? What if I am annoying or a burden? Pushing those what if's aside, I accepted invitations to meals and events. Soon enough I realized I very much liked this community that I was being invited into - I was accepted and becoming known and still loved. I also realized I enjoyed these two middle school girls: Graice & Savannah. Oh the preciousness that encompassed them. Because I had been invited, I decided I could possibly, maybe, perhaps, in some way invite them to coffee. Could I really invite girls to coffee and maybe even open the Bible and search for Jesus with them? Could I, Natalie Mathers (at the time), truly be enough to "disciple?" [You should read my post On Discipleship because it is close to my heart]. Instantly Jesus impressed into my heart, "I AM [enough]." In that nerve wracking moment, I knew that if I invited these girls to coffee with the hope of opening a Bible, He would be with me. And He is enough.
So it began: the invitation to coffee. Inviting people into my life, essentially my heart. Inviting wasn't easy - it was scary and risky and vulnerable. If they said no, I am exposed to rejection. But I then have the opportunity to turn my heart to Jesus and ask Him to define me. For the next 4 years I got into this habit of inviting people to coffee, to lunch, over for dinner, out for a walk or a hike, to the laundromat, and so on. There were plenty of moments when I would have rather sat in my home alone and read a book - but I knew that community and Jesus was transforming me, and I wanted that for others. With every invitation, the nauseating nervousness simmered. The queasy jitters are almost gone completely; but I feel them every now and again. And I am so thankful for those silent, nervous butterflies in my stomach before taking someone to coffee or spending time with anyone; they force me to pray. They remind me that I am me, a mere human, worth nothing without Jesus Christ. I have nothing, no wisdom or knowledge or anything good apart from Him. Those little jitters remind me that I must go to Him and ask for strength and guidance and wisdom. He is my counselor and my confidence. He is the ultimate Invite-r, friends.
The author of Hebrews knows we need to meet together; life as a Christian is hard. We are called to love our neighbors as ourself, pray for our enemies, and forgive. (Who am I? A narcissist? But seriously, I have another post you should read: Freedom in Forgivness.) This call to live in authentic community is for many reasons, one stated here in Hebrews: motivating one another to acts of love and good works. We need encouragement, we need love, we need the reminder to keep going when we think we can't. We need others to point to Jesus and remind us, "He is where we are going and He is with us."
Ps. When I got home from the office the other day, around 5:30, I was welcomed by a bunch of charming men and my most handsome husband huddling a fire on our patio. They were talking and praying about ways to become better husbands.
Community is where Jesus is at; community changes us for the better.